Keep up to date on autism success stories, and you will discover many young people who achieve exactly what they were told they could never achieve, and reach even further beyond their wildest dreams.
Anthony Ianni was told as a child that he might graduate high school, but would have to live in a group home after leaving his parents’ house. He was also told he would never be an athlete.
Now a professional public speaker, Ianni inspires students reach for their dreams, and not take “no” for an answer. After all, he’s glad he did- the former Big Ten Champion played for Michigan State basketball team. He became the first known Division 1 player with autism spectrum disorder.
At 4 years old, Ianni would throw tantrums and as his parents would describe it, “wig out.” After extensive monitoring, he was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder, which falls on the autistic spectrum.
In school, Ianni experienced constant bullying from his classmates as a result of his social difficulties. Even though he was bigger and taller than most of his peers, he was often picked on just for being bigger. He is not alone; up to 90 percent of children with autism spectrum disorder report being bullied.
The former athlete now holds a college degree, and he uses his platform to reach children who are being bullied, and to encourage them to have confidence in themselves.
“Let your talents do all your talking for you,” Ianni said as he addressed a group of students at Concord Middle School.
Finding basketball was a saving grace for the young man who would eventually grow up to be a Spartan. He was able to finally fit in with his teammates as he put his heart into something he loved. As a motivational speaker, he is on the road five days a week, addressing students all over the country with his anti-bullying speeches.
“It’s his passion, it is his life,” former MSU coach Tom Izzo said to the Lansing State Journal. “I wanted to be a coach, this is what he wants to be. I really believe that. His passion comes through when he speaks.”